AAAS Mentor Award
2011 Award Recipient
Rory Cooper is known for appreciating the talents, skills, and contributions of those around him and for his ability to create an environment where every person feels like a valuable part of the team. He is personally dedicated to the success of his students, having mentored 100 undergraduates, 69 Master’s candidates, 39 Ph.D. students, and 12 postdocs—half of whom have come from underrepresented groups—toward degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
In addition to being an inspiring and successful professor and mentor, Dr. Cooper is well known as a community builder through his leadership of organizations such as Easter Seals, United Cerebral Palsy, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans Leadership Program, and Boy Scouts of America. He was instrumental in organizing the 31st National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the largest annual wheelchair sporting event in the world, which took place in Pittsburgh in August 2011.
Currently the FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology and Professor of Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Cooper directs the staff and mission of the university’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, a worldwide leader of research and development to improve and excel the mobility of people with disabilities. He received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1985 and Master’s of engineering in 1986, both from California Polytechnic State University. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1989.
Dr. Cooper has been the recipient of 18 exceptional honors in the past two years, including the Outstanding Researcher Award from the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in 2010, the Community Hero Award from United Cerebral Palsy of Allegheny County in 2009, and the Veteran of the Year Award from the Veterans Leadership Program in 2009 for his exceptional service on behalf of veterans.
The AAAS Mentor Award, established in 1996, honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of students from underrepresented groups or who have changed the climate of a department, college, or institution to significantly increase the diversity of students pursuing and completing doctoral studies in the sciences. This award is directed toward individuals in the early- or mid-career stage who have mentored students for less than 25 years. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative plaque.